With less than a month left until we reach the tax-filing deadline, many people are finding themselves scrambling to complete those pesky forms and get the refund they’ve already spent in their heads. If you’re one of these tax procrastinators, take a deep breath. If you’re a millennial, take an even deeper one.
No one should try to get through tax season on their own. It would be like being a part of the 80% of dieters who try to lose weight on their own. Without the right support system, you’re less likely to be successful and more likely to be stressed by the process. This isn’t to say you can’t file your taxes online in the comfort of your own home. By using these helpful tips to guide you, you can make your tax-filing process much smoother while getting a refund that is sure to make your spring a little brighter.
1. Remember All Available Deductions
One of the trickiest parts of tax season is figuring out what deductions apply for your type of employment and your lifestyle. If you are among the wave of millennials who are self-employed in a full-time or part-time capacity, there is a range of tax implications. For instance, you could deduct expenses from office supplies you’ve had to purchase or gas expenses you’ve incurred when traveling for your business. By keeping track of the receipts for these purchases with a helpful receipt keeper app, you’ll have a handy record of your deductible expenses.
If you’ve been less than diligent about noting these expenses throughout the year, you may need some professional help to get the refund you deserve. Rather than filing online this year, consider working with a qualified CPA. With their experience and know-how, you can avoid being part of the 35% of Americans who overpay their federal taxes each year by $500 or more. As an added bonus, you can let go of some of the stress that comes with filing yourself.
2. Don’t Shy Away From the Joint File
If you got married this year, you have the chance to reap the financial benefits of your official union. The tax code typically favors married couples who file jointly over married couples who file separately. According to H&R Block tax specialist Tom Flynn, it is more beneficial for married couples to file jointly a whopping 90% of the time.
This is especially true for married couples with children. The child tax credit can reduce a married couple’s federal tax bill by $2,000 for every child that they have, but only if they file jointly. These reductions can add up to a significantly different refund. It could even be enough to make home improvements that turn into major investments down the road, like a new asphalt shingle roof that can give you a 62% return on investment.
3. Participate in Company-Sponsored Retirement Plans
This tip may be more relevant for your taxes next year, but the benefits are too significant to discount. Whether your company offers a traditional 401(k) or a Roth 401(k), the salary deferral it offers can reduce your taxes now and in the future. Both types of retirement plans place your company’s match to your contributions in the same bucket. When you withdraw from that bucket, the government will collect any ordinary income tax that is due on the matching contribution and on any gains.
In general, a younger worker with a relatively low income can benefit more from a Roth 401(k). If your tax rate in retirement — which the average person reaches at the age of 63 — is higher than it is now, this option is even better for you. You won’t see an immediate tax deduction with a Roth contribution, but it could provide you with a stream of tax-free cash flow in retirement.
Tax season has an air of stress and nerves around it for a reason. You’re dealing with real factors of your current and future financial situation. Make sure you handle it correctly by facing your taxes without fear and seeking help when you need it. Soon enough that refund will deposit into your bank account and you can let go of your tax worries. At least, until this time comes again next year.